By Lem Satterfield
LAS VEGAS -- Former WBC and WBO middleweight champion, Kelly Pavlik, will throw his first professional punch in more than a year on Saturday night when the 28-year-old meets Alfonso Lopez in a super middleweight under card bout of a main event featuring WBO welterweight king and eight-division titlist Manny Pacquiao defending his crown against Shane Mosley at the MGM Grand in LasVegas.
The fight for Pavlik (36-2, 32 knockouts) against the 28-year-old Lopez (21-0, 16 KOs) will be his first time in the ring since April, when he was dethroned by southpaw Sergio Martinez (47-2-2, 26 KOs) during a unanimous decision.
In early January, Pavlik was released following a two-month stay at the Betty Ford Center in Rancho Mirage, Calif., for treatment for a problem with alcohol.
Trainer Jack Loew makes no secret of the fact that, regardless of Pavlik's ring absence, he is looking to score a knockout.
"I would say that we have to stop this kid. I would be happy with the first punch that we throw, let's knock him out and get out of the ring. I don't care about the rounds. We'll knock off ring rust in the gym. If we can take him out early, he's going," said Loew.
"I've watched a lot of tape of Lopez. He's a big, strong kid. He tries to box sometimes, but the opponents that he's faced kind of allowed him to dictate to them what he wanted to do. He could move around the ring, he could box, or he could walk them down and knock them out," said Loew. "But Lopez has never been in front of 19,000 people, and he's never been across the ring from a kid who has been there, done that and beat the best in the world."
Pavlik dethroned Jermain Taylor by seventh-round knockout in Atlantic City in September of 2007 for the middleweight title, and is making only his second appearance at a weight above middleweight against Lopez.
"when Lopez gets into the ring, he's going to be going up against a guy who has been there," said Loew. "When Lopez gets puckered up a little bit and everything hits him, that's to our advantage."
The move up has been beneficial to his retention of strength, said Loew.
"We've been able to spend more time in the gym this time, where, before, it was like I would get the shortest time out of anybody. We'd go to the sauna, we'd go to the spa, we'd go to the YMCA spinning classes," said Loew.
"Then, we'd spend 45 minutes in the gym. That's what it came down to. Now, we're spending two hours in the gym," said Loew. "We're working on defense, working on his boxing, something that people haven't seen in so long."
Loew said that the last time Pavlik has felt this comfortable making weight was in his June, 2008, third-round knockout of Gary Lockett, one fight prior to his unanimous decision, non-title loss in October of 2008 to Bernard Hopkins.
"That's the last time that anybody saw him look this good," said Loew. "That was right before the Bernard Hopkins fight where he went up to 170 pounds. Once we came down from 170, it had been a struggle to make middleweight since then."
"I feel good. This is probably the best that I've felt in a long time without having to kill ourselves to make the weight. This feels amazing. I'm excited to gete back into it. A lot of times, in the past, I'm still 11 pounds over two days before the fight," said Pavlik, who lost 20 pounds to make the super middleweight limit of 168.
"You have dry out a little bit for this fight, but not to the extent that you had to in the past to make 160. We would get to 170 or so the night before the weigh-in and couldn't sweat a drop," said Pavlik. "I had nothing left in my body and would be like, 'How in the hell am I going to get 10 pounds off.' I'd be running on a treadmill with a sauna suit for 15 or 16 miles. That just took a lot out of me."
That was the case, said Pavlik, against Martinez.
"We had no idea that it was going to to be that hard. We couldn't do it at a catch weight or anything like that," said Pavlik. "But right now, we've got enough to worry about at 168, where there are a lot of good fighters and a lot of good opportunities for me for the future."
But Pavlik must first get beyond Lopez.
"This guy that I'm fighting on Saturday night is no joke. He's a hard puncher," said Pavlik. "I think that my power punching will increase. It's still there. The more energy, the more snap on my punches, and the better it is for me in the long run."